FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Where the Wild Things Are
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Riley and Buffy have got things back on track after he accidentally slept with Faith in Buffy's body. Willow's in a relationship with Tara now and Xander's been with Anya for a while, who is still rather insecure in their relationship.
Ah. The sex house episode. There are some episodes you return to and wonder what on earth the writers' room had been imbibing the week they came up with this one. Buffy and Riley spend the entire episode having sex, pretty much, because of some weird curse that has been placed on Lowell House by the residents that haunt it. When a frat party is held, the sort-of-ghosts come out to play; there's all kinds of other weird sex things going on and it's up to the rest of the Scoobies to solve the mystery of the house and rescue Riley and Buffy before they're consumed by the building. It turns out the not-really-spirits that haunt the building were once ruled by a strict, conservative disciplinarian who would violently punish them for any transgressions.
I don't think this episode would be quite so odd if there was something concrete you could get your hands on as an audience. It's a weird jumble of ideas, each one able to fuel an entire episode, but smashing them all into a haunted house narrative doesn't work. Especially because the house itself isn't technically haunted and the explanation doesn't make a whole lot of sense; so, there are these kids, right, who get abused by their wacko Christian nutjob house director and it makes them really angry, obviously, so they manifest themselves in Lowell House, but only because Buffy and Riley start having sex a lot and their release of sexual energy turns them into human poltergeist batteries. Or something...
See what I mean?
At the heart of Where the Wild Things Are is a discussion about sex that the episode never seems to want to have. If ever there was a story crying out for some kind of sex positive message then this was it. The abuse of the kids happens because Genevieve Holt thinks they're all at it like rabbits behind closed doors. Riley and Buffy activate it because they are literally going at it like rabbits behind a closed door.
Xander and Anya are going through relationship issues because Anya fears that all they have is sex and once that stops, so does the relationship. Their fight to make it through the house becomes a metaphor for their relationship as they get tangled up in other things, but ultimately make it through together. It's about the only real coherent thread running throughout the episode, but it never makes anything of it. It could have been used to demonstrate that sex is a healthy part of a relationship, something to be discussed sure, but nothing to hide away from. Instead, we get an orgasm wall.
In a sense, it feels like a Beer Bad style episode in that it's pulling towards having a moral message, but never goes as far as that previous terrible example because it doesn't commit to that message. Beer Bad even had a relatively solid concept at the heart of it. Where the Wild Things Are never quite sinks to those same depths (perhaps because it does stay so woolly), but it's not far off.
The humour redeems it. Spike coming with Anya to an Initiative party and having to spend most of the night hiding from them is great, so too is the Scooby rallying moment in which he looks as if he's about to help but then, nope. Off he goes.Then there's the whole discovery that Willow used to have a crush on Giles and the fact that he's singing is made out to be the real horror of the episode. He's pretty good, you guys.
Quote of the Week:
Buffy: Ok, you get Fang, I'll get Horny! I mean-
Let's Get Trivial: GILES SINGS. It's the first time we see the musical talents of Anthony Head in the series and 'Behind Blue Eyes' is great... It's no 'Exposition Song' though. Bring on Restless.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Kathryn Jooston plays the horrible Genevieve Holt, but she's much more famous as cookie-wielding Mrs Landingham from The West Wing or battleaxe Mrs McCluskey from Desperate Housewives.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, Superstar, here.